NEW alcohol guidelines state men and women should drink no more than 14 units of alcohol a week – the equivalent of seven pints of larger or seven glasses of wine.

The Department of Health’s new limits, which come into effect today, replace guidelines set more than 20 years ago.

The amount men can drink has dropped significantly from 21 to 14, the same as women.


England's chief medical officer Dame Sally Davies said there was a need to update the advice based on new scientific evidence.

She said people needed to take into account the clear link between alcohol and cancer.

But she said people remained at “low risk” if they drank up to 14 units per week across three or four days.

Speaking about the cancer risks, she said: “There is no doubt that the more we drink, the bigger our risks.

“Every year, over 20,000 of people in the UK have a diagnosis of cancer made consequent on drinking alcohol.

“I would argue that we have to be very careful in making sure that the public know the risks of drink just as they need to know the risk of obesity and other lifestyle issues so they can take their choice and live their lives.

“The reason we've done this is that the science had progressed and advice needed updating.”

Drinking during pregnancy


Pregnant women are being told to abstain from drinking completely as a precautionary measure.

Under the old guidelines they were advised to stay away from alcohol, but if they did choose to drink to have no more than one or two units once or twice a week.

Scientists admit there is scant evidence regarding drinking at low levels in pregnancy, but they say it is perfectly plausible it can harm the foetus.

There is also the risk that women underestimate how much they are actually drinking, thereby increasing the risks for their unborn child.

Binge drinking

The guidelines also warn against binge drinking.

People should have several booze-free days a week and not "save up" their 14 units for a binge.

Evidence shows that the “risks accelerate” from the point at which around five to seven units are drunk in one sitting. This includes the risk of accident or injury.

What 14 units of alcohol looks like

Here are some examples of the recommended weekly intake of 14 units of alcohol:

  • 14 single measures of spirits (ABV 37.5%)
  • Seven pints of average-strength (4%) lager
  • Nine and one-third 125ml glasses of average-strength (12%) wine
  • Seven 175ml glasses of average-strength (12%) wine
  • Four and two-thirds 250ml glasses of average-strength (12%) wine